It’s National Blog Posting Month, so over the course of November, we are focusing on how to blog better and faster. Catch up on our other tips for bloggers on the Blogging section of Beyond Bylines.
When you run a blog, one of the biggest perks is that you’re in charge. You’re writer, editor, photographer, videographer, graphic designer, programmer, marketer, and more.
This also makes blogging one of the biggest challenges because not many of us start out skilled in those areas.
Fortunately, there are many resources and guides to remove the mystery from blogging. Better yet — many of them are free or incredibly inexpensive to use.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday and the final week of National Blog Posting Month, we asked bloggers from all over PR Newswire:
Which blogging tools are you most thankful for?
Here are 11 of the tools they shared. When you try them out, we think you’ll be thankful, too.
Graphic Design Made Easy
To say I’m obsessed with Canva is a gross understatement. I think I love Canva more than blogging itself.
Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of design tools and software and have found Canva is among the easiest to pick up.
When you start a new design, you can choose from 17+ templates. You no longer have to look up the ideal dimensions for a Facebook ad, Google+ cover photo, or Instagram post. The Canva team has gathered best practices for all different types of digital and print designs. If none of them work for your current project, you also can customize your dimensions.
Canva is completely free to use if you upload your own image or choose from its large library of free graphics. The only time you’ll spend money is if you use a graphic from Canva’s premium library. Even then, it costs just $1 per image.
Although I love how free and easy Canva is to use, it’s the site’s commitment to good design that makes Canva my absolute favorite blogging tool.
From a library of inspiring layouts to the Design School’s online tutorials and workshops, Canva is dedicated to giving everyone the tools — and the knowledge — needed to create stunning graphics.
— Amanda Hicken, Manager, Media Relations
3 Blog Management Essentials
There are three sites I can’t live without for managing ProfNet Connect’s blogs.
Google Calendar: An easy, and free, way to schedule blog posts. I can also give my team access so they can see what blog posts everyone has coming up.
AP Stylebook online: I’m a big fan of AP style, so I check this website multiple times a day.
Google Analytics: An easy tool that helps us plan future blog posts by knowing which posts do well and which don’t.
— Maria Perez, Director, Online Community Relations
Being given the opportunity to write a regular series about grammar and writing has been an amazing journey. When I first took over PR Newswire’s Grammar Hammer column, I really had no idea where to begin.
I come from a long line of writers, teachers, educators, and speakers. I felt confident that I could add my voice to this esteemed lineage and make the family proud. I review news releases all day long. I see grammatical mistakes in many of them and know exactly how to correct it.
This new assignment, though, meant that I’d have to explain why something was wrong and give some tips on how to remember that. Somehow, I didn’t think my college writing guides from the early 1990s would be incredibly helpful.
I turned to the internet and found a great cache of sites that I have come to rely on when testing my own knowledge of grammar rules and topics. I recapped a few of them here.
— Catherine Spicer, Manager, Customer Content Services
Instagram has become one of my favorite tools as a blogger. I’m a visual person and when Instagram came on the scene I couldn’t wait to embrace it.
At first, integrating images into blog posts meant snagging images and uploading it to a blog post or using Instagram’s instant upload to Flickr. Over the last year, though, they have created easy embedding capabilities.
The most recent upgrade included the ability to have captions appear, as well as automatic resizing to fit your blog’s width. As a bonus, readers can click on the image to take them to your online Instagram feed to like, comment, or even follow.
Posting images onto Instagram isn’t enough. Using hashtags is the best way to connect your images to those who are interested. As with any social media service it is important to engage with other users, comment, and remember to shout out thanks when appropriate. You also can cross-post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare for greater engagement.
Traditional Journalism Meets Social Media
While I’ve been fortunate to nurture relationships with great sources as a longtime business journalist, social media has taken my reporting and blogging to a new level.
Today, researching stories and ideas is way easier. And social media offers a variety of ways to connect with sources through other platforms. (You can read our coverage of a few of these tools here.)
It’s opened up my Rolodex, allowing me to reach a great many more folks for stories I’m working on.
— Christine Cube, Manager, Media Relations
Photos At The Ready
I am thankful for many things in my life, but as a blogger, one thing I can’t live without is Flickr’s Creative Commons. It’s a database filled with images I can use to spice up any project I’m working on.
Thanks to the Flickr users who have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, I won’t have any trouble finding a photo to complete my latest blog post before heading out for Thanksgiving vacation.
— Ryan Hansen, Audience Researcher
2 Must-Haves for Multi-Author Blogs
I manage 10 active content contributors for PR Newswire’s Small Business PR Toolkit, a program and resource center that educates small business professionals about PR and how it can help their company or organization gain visibility and grow.
Luckily, I am very much a type-A personality and can keep up with the process; however, I have found that by putting certain systems into place I can save some time and focus my efforts elsewhere. I am thankful for the following two blogging tools:
Editorial Guidelines for Content Contributors: I initially provide this to our contributors during the onboarding and it helps tremendously by streamlining the submission process. Why continue to explain the steps over and over again if you have a handy one-sheet that does the job for you?
Editorial Calendar: Over the years, this has become my right-hand man. I schedule posts and submissions on a quarterly basis and this provides me plenty of time to communicate these dates to our contributors and also helps me keep up with the deadlines. I was never able to find a tool online that met all of my needs, so I created my own in Excel and I would be lost without it.
— Amanda Eldridge, Director, Strategic Channels
PR Newswire for Journalists — and for Bloggers
Don’t let the name fool you. PR Newswire for Journalists offers many free tools for bloggers. Registered bloggers get one-stop access to breaking news, subject matter experts, story ideas, and high-resolution multimedia.
Customize a profile to receive only the news you want, at a time that’s convenient to you. Newsfeeds can be targeted for any topic, by industry, geography, subject, keyword, brand name and more. Press releases can be emailed in real-time or in a digest as often as you want.
Our ProfNet service can connect you with thousands of experts and brands. Submit a query, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely sources and story ideas sent to you by email.
Need an image? Search and download high-resolution images via PR Newswire’s multimedia gallery. All images are free to use in blog posts. Video, audio, and other multimedia also are available.
Get started at prnmedia.prnewswire.com/registration.
Before we head off to celebrate Thanksgiving, the team at Beyond Bylines had one last thank you — a thank you for YOU, our readers. Our blog wouldn’t exist without someone reading it. Thanks for always stopping by, sharing, and engaging with us!
If there’s a blogging tool you’re thankful for, let us know in the comments.
Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, Cleveland, and comic books.